Category: African Music

New Video: JOVM Mainstays Tinariwen Return with a Mournful Meditation on Time, Friendship, and the Tuareg Way of Life in Visuals for Album Single “Nannuflay”

Over the past few years, I’ve written quite a bit about the internationally renowned Algerian Tuareg pioneers of the Desert Blues, Tinariwen, and as you may recall the act can trace their origins back to the late 1970s when the band’s founding member, guitarist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, joined a small group of Tuareg rebels living in refugee camps in Libya and Algeria. The group of rebels Ag Alhabib hooked up with had been influenced by radical chaabi protest music of Moroccan groups like Nass El Ghiwane and Jil Jilala, Algerian pop rai, and western artists like Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, Carlos Santana, Dire Straits, Jimi Hendrix, Boney M, and Bob Marley  — and they started writing music that meshed the traditional folk music of their people with Western rock, reggae and blues-leaning arrangements. Upon relocating to Tamanrasset, Algeria, Ag Alhabib started a band with Alhassane Ag Touhami and brothers Inteyeden Ag Ablil and Liya Ag Ablil that had played traditional Taureg music at various weddings, parties and other occasions across both Algeria and Libya. Interestingly, as the story goes, when the quartet had started, they didn’t have a name; but people across the region, who had seen them play had begun calling them Kel Tinariwen, which in the Tamashek language (the tongue of the Taureg people) translates roughly as “The People of the Deserts” or “The Desert Boys.”

In 1980, Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi issued a decree inviting all young Tuareg men, who were living illegally in Libya to receive full military training, as part of his dream of forming a Saharan regiment, comprised of the best young Tuareg fighters to further his territorial ambitions in Chad, Niger, and elsewhere across Northern Africa. Al Alhabib and his bandmates answered the call and received military training. Whether or not the founding members of the band truly believed in Gaddafi’s military ambitions would be difficult to say — but on a practical level, a steady paycheck to support yourself and your family certainly is an enticement. Five years later, Ag Alhabib, Ag Touhami and the Ag Ablil brothers answered a similar call by leaders of the Libyan Tuareg movement, who desired an autonomous homeland for their people, and wound up meeting fellow musicians Keddou Ag Ossade, Mohammed Ag Itlale (a.k.a “Japonais”), Sweiloum Ag Alhousseyni, Abouhadid Ag Alhousseyni, and Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni — all who had sang and played guitar. At this point, the lineup of Tinariwen was completed and the members of the collective began writing songs about the issues and concerns of their people.

The members of the band built a makeshift studio and then vowed to record and distribute music for free for anyone who supplied them a blank cassette tape. And within a short period of time, their cassettes were a highly sought-after item, and were traded throughout Saharan Africa.

In 1989 the collective had left Libya and relocated to Ag Alhabib’s birthplace of Tessalit, Mali; but by the next year, Mail’s Tuareg population revolted against the Malian government — with some members of the collective participating as rebel fighters in that conflict. After the Tamanrasset Accords were reached and agreed upon in early 1991, the members of Tinariwen, who had fought in the conflict had left the military and devoted themselves to their music full-time. By 1992, some of the members of the band went to Abidjan, Ivory Coast to record a cassette at JBZ Studios, which they followed up with extensive gigs for their fellow Tuaregs across Saharan Africa, which helped furthered the reputation they had developed primarily by word-of-mouth.

A collaboration with renowned French, world music ensemble Lo’Jo helped the members of Tinariwen receive a growing international profile, which included their a live set at  Africa Oye, one of the UK’s largest African music/African Diaspora festival. Building on the increasing buzz, the band released their full-length debut The Radio Tisdas Sessions, which was their first recorded effort to be released outside of Saharan Africa. Since their formation, the collective has gone through a series of lineup changes, incorporating a younger generation of Tuareg musicians, who haven’t fought during the military conflicts of the elders, including bassist Eyadou Ag Leche, percussionist Said Ag Ayad, guitarist Elaga Ag Hamid, guitarist Abdallah Ag Lamida, and vocalists Wonou Walet Sidati and the Walet Oumar sisters.

Despite their lineup changes, Tinariwen has received international acclaim, particularly over the past decade, as they’ve regularly toured across the European Union, North America, Japan and Australia, frequently playing sets at some of the world’s biggest music festivals — including Glastonbury, Coachella, Roskilde, Les Vieilles Charrues, WOMAD, FMM Sines,  Printemps de Bourges and others, as well as some of the world’s best known music venues, as they continued with a sound that evokes the harsh and surreal beauty of their homeland, centered around the poetry and wisdom of a rough and tumble, proud and rebellious people, whose old-fashioned way of life is rapidly disappearing as a result of technology and encroaching Westernization. Along with that, a bloody and contentious series of religious and ethnic wars have splintered several nations across the region — including most recently Mali and Libya, where members of Tinariwen have proudly called home at various points of the band’s existence.  Unsurprisingly, Tinariwen’s latest album Elwan (which translates into English as The Elephants) thematically focuses on the impact of Westernization and technology has had on their people, the band’s life of forced exile, and their longing for their ancestral homeland.

Elwan’s latest single “Nannuflay” is an atmospheric and shuffling blues centered around a hypnotic groove and a gorgeous, looping guitar line that features the renowned pioneers of the Desert Blues collaborating with guitar god Kurt Vile and the imitable, grunge rock pioneer Mark Lanegan, that manages to be a powerful connection between Saharan Africa and the West, and a mournful longing for a past that the song’s narrator knows he cannot have back; but along with that, there’s a tacit acknowledgement that time is passing by — sometimes faster than anyone wants to admit.

Directed by Axel Digoix, the animated video for “Nannuflay” follows an older Tuareg man, who returns to the camp where he grew up for a party. The man remembers both the joys and torments of the nomadic life, he once lived with a friend, who has since died, including childhood memories of life in the sand dunes, the adventures they had as teenagers, the fights, dramas and responsibilities of their adult lives. Throughout the video, the two men’s friendship details the lives of the Tauregs and the duty and obligation they feel towards each other and to passing along as much of the old traditions as humanly possible.

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New Video: Congolese DIY Collective KOKOKO! Returns with a Raunchy Club Banger

Bordered by Central African Republic and South Sudan to its north; Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to its east; Zambia and Angola to the south; the Republic of the Congo to its west; and the Atlantic Ocean to its southwest, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the second largest country by area in Africa and the eleventh largest by area in the entire world — and by with a population of 78 million people, the most populated officially Francophone country in the entire world, the fourth most populated nation in African and the seventeenth most populated country in the world.

Humans first settled within the expansive territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo roughly 90,000 years ago, although various Bantu speaking tribes began migrating into the region in the 5th century and again in the 10th century. From the 14th to the 19th century, the territory was split into three different territories — to the West, the Kingdom of Kongo ruled for close to 500 years; while the central and Eastern sections were ruled by the Luba and Lunda kingdoms, which ruled from roughly the 16th century to the 19th century.

In the 1870s, European exploration of the Congo region was first carried out and led by Henry Morton Stanley, who was sponsored by King Leopold II of Belgium and by 1885, Leopold had formally acquired the rights to the Congo territory, making the land his private property. Ironically naming the territory the Congo Free State, the colonial military unit the Force Publique forced much of the local population into producing rubber and from 1885-1908 millions of Congolese died from exploitation and disease. Despite initial reluctance, the Belgian government formally annexed the Free State and the territory became the Belgian Congo.

Between the late 1950s and mid 1960s, revolutionary movements swept much of Africa, reshaping the map; in fact, The Democratic Republic of the Congo achieved independence in June 1960 as the Republic of the Congo, with Patrice Lumumba, a Congolese nationalist, becoming the country’s first Prime Minister and Joseph Kasa-Vubu, becoming the country’s first president. Within a few months, the provinces of Katanga, Moise-Tshombe and South Kasai attempted to secede and by September 1960, Lumumba was dismissed from office by Kasa-Vubu with encouragement by the US and Belgium after Lumumba sought assistance from the Soviet Union with what has since been known as the Congo Crisis. By mid September of that year, Lumumba was arrested by forces loyal to Army Chief of Staff Joseph-Desire Mobutu, who gained de facto control of the country through a coup d’etat. By early 1961 Lumumba was executed by Belgian-led Katangese forces.

In 1965 Mobutu, who later renamed himself Mobutu Sese Seko, officially came into power through a second coup d’etat, running the country, which he renamed as Zaire as a one-party state, with his Popular Movement of the Revolution as the country’s sole legal party for more than 30 years. By the early 1990s, Sese Seko’s government had begun to weaken and by the middle of the decade, growing disenfranchisement among the country’s eastern Congolese Tutsi population led to Zaire’s invasion by their Tutsi-ruled neighbor Rwanda, which began the First Congo War and eventually led to the end of Mobutu Sese Seko’s 32 year stranglehold on the country.

In May 1997, Laurent-Desire Kabila, a leader of South Kivu province-based Tutsi forces became President of the country and reverted the nation’s name to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Unfortunately, tensions between Kabila and the Rwandan and Tutsi presence led to the Second Congo War from 1998-2003, which involved nine different African nations and 20 different armed groups and eventually resulted in the deaths of 5.4 million people. Naturally, the decade long period of civil war and instability devastated the country and the larger region. And if you add several centuries of commercial and colonial exploitation, which continues to this very day, extreme poverty, inequality and inequity and a lack of infrastructure, you understandably wind up with a population that’s desperate and struggling to survive.

Led by Makara Bianco and featuring production from prolific French producer débruit, KOKOKO! is a pioneering Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo-based DIY electronic collective inspired by a growing spirit of protest and unrest among Kinshasa’s young people, who have begun to both openly question centuries-old norms and taboos and or openly denounce a society that they perceived as paralyzed by fear. In fact, the collective’s name literally means KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK! with the collective viewing themselves as the sound of a new generation boldly, loudly and defiantly banging on the doors and walls, yelling “OUR TIME IS NOW!” The members of the collective operate in a wildly inventive DIY fashion, creating self-designed and self-made instruments from recycled junk and claptrap — and they built a recording studio out of old mattresses, found wood and a ping pong table. (If that isn’t punk as fuck, I don’t know what is.) Fueled by the underlying notion that desperate survival fuels creativity, the collective received international attention with their Tokoliana EP, an urgent, forward-thinking, way out in left field effort featuring a sound that nodded at disco, post-punk, hip-hop, reggae, retro-futuristic funk, Afro-futurism and traditional regional music — but from a sweaty, grimy, post-apocalyptic future in which the ghetto and club are one and the same. 

ICI released the Congolese collective’s second EP TONGOS’A late last year, and the EP finds the collective further exploring themes of survival in the desperate and uneasy political and social climate of their homeland — sometimes focusing on small, deeply human pleasures and concerns; in fact, the EP’s first track, title track “Tongos’a (which translates roughly into ’til the morning light”) is a sweaty and raunchy club banger on the necessity of getting laid properly, rooted around skittering drum programming, thumping beats and a looped guitar and bass line that’s derived from the Mongo tribe repertoire, making the song a mischievous mix of the old and the new. 

Directed by débruit, Markus Hofko, Renaud Barret, the recently released video for “Tongos’a” stars a local dance act “l’homme capote” comprised of Mbuyi Tickson, Makoka, and Riyana sweaty and grinding seductively to the song, capturing the song’s raunchy, club-friendly vibe. 

New Audio: Sampha Shimmering, Dance Floor Friendly Remix of Legendary Malian Vocalist Oumou Sangare’s “Minata Waraba”

Oumou Sangare is a Bamako, Mail-born and-based, Grammy Award-winning,  singer/songwriter and musician, who comes from a deeply musical family, as her mother, Aminata Diakite was a renowned singer. When Sangare was young, her father had abandoned the family, and she helped her mother feed the family by singing; in fact, by the time she had turned five, Sangare had been well known as a highly gifted singer. After making it to the finals of a nursery school talent show, a very young Sangare performed in front of a crowd of 6,000 at Omnisport Stadium — and by the time she was 16, she had gone on tour with a nationally known percussion act, Djoliba.

Sangare’s 1989 debut effort, Moussoulou (which translates into English as “Women”) was recorded with renowned Malian music master Amadou Ba Guindo, and was a commercial success across Africa, as it sold over 200,000 copies. With the help of the world renowned Malian singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ali Farka Toure, the father of Vieux Farka Toure, Sangare signed with English record label World Circuit — and by the time she turned 21, she had received an internationally known profile. Interestingly, Sangare is considered both an ambassador of Mali and the Wassoulou region of the country, just south of the Niger River, lovingly referred to as “The Songbird of Wassoulou,” as her music draws from the music and traditional dances of the region while lyrically her work has been full of social criticism, focusing on the low status of women within Malian society and elsewhere, and the desire to have freedom of choice in all matters of one’s life, from who they can marry to being financially independent.

Interestingly, since 1990 Sangare has performed at some of the world’s most important venues and festivals including the Melbourne Opera, Roskilde Festival, Gnaoua World Music Festival, WOMAD, Oslo World Music Festival and the Opera de la Monnaie, while releasing several albums including — 1993’s Ko Sira, 1996’s Worotan and 2004’s 2 CD compilation Oumou. Adding to a growing profile, Sangare has toured with Baaba Mal, Femi Kuti and Boukman Eksperyans, and she has been named a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in 1998, won the UNESCO Prize in 2001 and was named an ambassador of the FAO in 2003.

Mogoya which translates into English as “People Today,” was Sangare’s first full-length effort in over 22 years, and it was released to critical praise from the likes of Dazed, The Fader, The Guardian while making the Best of 2017 Lists of Mojo, the BBC, the aforementioned The Guardian as well as Gilles Peterson — and the album found the renowned Malian artist collaboration with the legendary Tony Allen and French production team A.L.B.E.R.T. and pushing her sound in a new, direction; in fact album single “Minata Waraba” features  Sangare’s gorgeous and expressive voice with shimmering African instrumentation paired with a slick and hyper modern production that emphasizes a sinuous, electric bass line and shuffling, complex polyrhythm that reminds me of a 2013 Fela Kuti tribute compilation, Red Hot + Fela, which featured contemporary artists re-imagining some of the Afrobeat creator’s signature tunes.

Sangare will be releasing the Mogoya Remixed album through Nø Førmat Records today, and the album features remixes of the album’s material by contemporary artists and producers, who have been high profile fans of her work; in fact the album’s latest single is from the British-born and based producer and artist Sampha. Sampha has split his time between solo and collaborative work, and has worked with the likes of SBTRKT, FKA Twigs, Jesse Ware, Drake, Beyonce, Kanye West, Solange and Frank Ocean. His full-length debut Process won the Mercury Music Prize last year, and earned him a 2018 BRIT Award nomination for Best British Breakthrough.

Sampha has publicly mentioned his love of Oumou Sangare’s music, explain in press notes, “My dad had a copy of Oumou’s album Worotan and no other album has spoken to me quite like that. Her music has been a huge inspiration ever since and it’s a real honour to have remixed some of her music.” Sampha’s remix retains Sangare’s crystalline vocals but pairs it with a thumping production, featuring tribal house like beats and shimmering arpeggiated synths that while modern, still keeps the song rooted to Africa. Interestingly, Sangare has mentioned being bowled over by Sampha’s remix, saying  “When I first heard Sampha’s remix, I was amazed at the beat. Our rhythmic patterns are not always easy for Western people. But, wow, Sampha’s beat is definitely African, definitely. Listening to it I can tell that Sampha has African blood in his veins. I am really excited by this version, I play it again and again.”

New Video: Imarhan Releases Hallucinogenic Visuals for the Funky Disco Groove-based single “Ehad Wa Dagh”

Comprised of Iyad Moussa “Sadam” Ben Abderahmane, Tahar Khaldi, Hicham Bouhasse, Abdelkader Ourzig and Haiballah Akhamouk, the Tamanrasset, Algeria-based quintet Imarhan formed back in 2008 and are among a newer generation of Tuareg musicians that haven’t fought in the armed conflicts that have devastated Saharan Africa over the past 3 or 4 decades. Unsurprisingly, the members of Imarhan have been mentored by members of the internationally renowned Tuareg collective Tinariwen, while developing their own reputation across both the Tuareg world and elsewhere for pairing the ancestral tamashek poetry and rhythms of their elders with the contemporary sounds that reflect their urban upbringings, listening to a wide variety of music from across the globe.
 
With the 2016 release of the Algerian quintet’s critically applauded, self-titled debut album, they quickly became a buzz-worthy act with a growing internationally recognized profile which found them opening for a number internationally renowned touring acts including Kurt Vile, the aforementioned Tinariwen, Songhoy Blues and Mdou Moctor at venues across the US, the European Union and China. Imarhan’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Temet officially drops today and the Patrick Votan and Eyadou Ag Leche-produced album derives its name from the Tamashek word for “connections,” — and interestingly enough, the album reportedly is meant as an urgent wake up call to the listener, reminding them (and us, of course) that we are all deeply connected and without unity and understanding, we will never solve the world’s most urgent and pressing problems — i.e., environmental destruction, inequality, racism, growing strife and conflict, etc. As the band’s Ben Abderahmane said in press notes some time ago, “People should love each other. They need to know each other, we need to know each other, everyone should get to know their neighbor. We need to have the same approach as our elders,” he continues. “You will stumble across an old man who knows the world and will hand down his knowledge to his children.”
 
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few months, you may recall that the album’s first single “Azzaman” was a meditative, hypnotic yet subtly contemporary take on the region’s desert blues sound that nods at psych rock — while thematically the song focuses on the passing of time and the handing over of a heritage and traditions by each successive generation, and the importance of leaving the right legacy. But along with that, the song makes a point of connecting different cultures of mixing the old and the new in a sensible way. Temet‘s second single “Tamudre” consists of a hypnotic and downright propulsive groove, punctuated with layers of percussion (both drumming and handclaps), call and response vocals and some impressive guitar work. Naturally, the song manages to remind me quite a bit of Tinariwen’s “Sustanaqqam” and “Adounia Ti Chidjret” but with a loose, bluesy vibe.
 
Temet’s latest single “Ehad Wa Dagh” features a stomping, dance floor-friendly, trance inducing, disco-like groove paired with some incredibly dexterous guitar pyrotechnics, making the song a funky and bold modernization of the desert blues that finds the band retaining familiar elements — the call and response vocals and the propulsive rhythms.
 
Directed by Visions Particulières, the recently released neon colored video focuses on Tamanrasset’s nightlife with members of the band arriving at a local nightclub to play a show — throughout it’s an explosion of colors, lights, and superimposed footage of the band members playing over an overhead of Tamanrasset. It’s a fitting psychedelic stomp.

New Video: Swedish-born Multi-Instrumentalist and Electronic Music Artist Thornato Connects New York and Ghana In Visuals for Club-Banging New Single “Back It Up”

Thor Partridge is a Swedish-born Cypriot, whose mother encouraged his interest in music at a very young age; in fact, it was common to hear traditional Greek, African and Caribbean music in his home. As the story goes, Partridge’s family relocated to New York when he was a child, and he eventually studied classical piano, jazz guitar and bluegrass banjo. Partridge quickly showed a penchant and interest in production and remixing, when he found that he couldn’t help tinkering with classical piano arrangements. 

As an electronic music artist, multi-instrumentalist, and producer, who writes, records and performs as Thornato, Partridge quickly received international attention with the release of 2016’s groundbreaking, electronic music/drum ‘n’ bass EP Things Will Change. Building upon a rapidly growing profile, Partidge’s full-length album Bennu found the up-and-coming multi-instrumentalist becoming a go-to collaborator and producer, contributing to Bollywood scores, as well as playing clubs across the globe. 

Friday will mark the release of the Swedish Cypriot’s latest EP Back It Up and the EP’s latest single, title track “Back It Up,” finds the up-and-coming producer, collaborating with Ghanian vocalist  Zongo Abongo in a song that lovingly draws from the sounds of the African Diaspora as the song draws from several distinct genres and styles, including 90s Jamaican dancehall, Afro-pop, Champeta, and Dembow in a way that’s simultaneously seamless yet nostalgic, anachronistic yet incredibly post-modern — and perhaps most important of all, the song manages to be a breezy and infectious club banger with quite a bit of thump. 

Directed by Justin Conte, the video features Ghanian vocalist Zongo Abongo and dancer Soraya Lundy connecting across the Atlantic Ocean with a bright orange landline phone, essentially sharing a sensual dance between New York and Accra. 

New Video: Introducing the Hypnotic Grooves and Visuals of Niamey, Niger’s Tal National

Currently composed of Almeida (guitar), Babaye (guitar), Tafa (guitar), Massaoudo (vocals), Souleymane (vocals), Maloumba (vocals), Seidou (vocals), Dalik (vocals), Yac Tal (bass), Essa (bass), Omar (drums), Souleymane (drums), Aboullay (drums), Sgt. Maty (drums, vocals), the Niamey, Niger-based collective Tal National features a rotating cast of collaborators that represents their homeland’s diverse array of cultures with members from their homeland’s Songhai, Fulani, Hausa and Tuareg populations. Interestingly, the collective have developed a reputation for joyous and hypnotic, West African guitar music that draws from the diverse musical cultures of Niger as their work possesses elements of highlife, Afrobeat, kora, Tuareg blues, Malian griot, Hausa rolling 12/8 rhythms and so on, as well as American psych rock delivered with virtuoso precision and unrelenting energy.

The band’s 2013 debut effort was released through FatCat Records to critical acclaim from the likes of The New York Times, The Guardian, The Independent, Mojo, Vice and The Wire, with frenetic live sessions on NPR, KEXP and WBEZ. Building upon a growing international profile, the band received praise from the likes of Pitchfork, Afropop Worldwide, The Fader, The Quietus, The Boston Globe and NPR.

Released last Friday, Tantabara, Tal National’s third album continues their ongoing collaboration with Chicago, IL-based engineer Jamie Carter on production and engineering duties, and the album which was recorded in the collective’s hometown of Niamey, Niger. Unsurprisingly, the album find the collective furthering their expressed mission of making a global audience dance to their hypnotic grooves, all while focusing on capturing the energy and vibe of their live sound to tape. Much like their counterparts, the collective have managed to create a huge sound of extremely limited resources, which frequently means that the members of the collective record in a remote, recording rid in a dusty, makeshift studio, working with minimal recording equipment and instruments on the verge of disrepair. Interestingly, the collective credits their songwriting and recording process to adding to their overall communal spirit, with opening their home up as a studio as a way for everyone within the group to be involved; in fact, Tantabara’s 8 tracks features 8 different vocalists — 7 of whom are full-time members.
 
Additionally, the album finds the collective looking back on a busy and influential period of time spent honing their live and recorded sound drawing from a number of Stateside tours, live sets at WOMAD Festival and Roskilde Festival and their legendary 5 hour plus live shows at their Niamey nightclub.
 
Tantabara’s latest single “Akokas,” much like the bulk of their work is centered around a tight danceable yet trance-like groove, some blistering and virtuoso guitar work and complex polyrhythm but at its core is much-needed celebration of diversity, acceptance and tolerance — and along with that, two larger, universal messages: that music is a powerful, unifying force and that there’s love, freedom, acceptance on the dance floor, if you let go of your preconceived notions and let the moment.
 
The recently released video for “Akokas” features wild and psychedelic visuals of the band’s members performing the song, capturing the band’s ebullient and euphoric spirit and the song’s trippy grooves.

Live Footage: Imarhan Perform Album Single “Tamudre” in Upcoming Documentary on Taureg Life

Comprised of Iyad Moussa “Sadam” Ben Abderahmane, Tahar Khaldi, Hicham Bouhasse, Abdelkader Ourzig and Haiballah Akhamouk, the Tamanrasset, Algeria-based quintet Imarhan formed back in 2008 and are among a newer generation of Tuareg musicians, who have yet to fight in the conflicts that have devastated Saharan Africa over the past 3 or 4 decades. Interestingly, the band has been mentored by members of internationally renowned Tuareg collective Tinariwen, while developing a reputation across the Tuareg world and elsewhere for pairing the ancestral tamashek poetry and rhythms of their elders with the much more contemporary sounds that reflect their urban upbringings, listening to a wide variety of music from across the globe. 

With the 2016 release of the Algerian quintet’s critically applauded, self-titled debut album, they quickly became a buzz-worthy act with a growing internationally recognized profile that found them opening for a number internationally renowned touring acts including Kurt Vile, the aforementioned Tinariwen, Songhoy Blues and Mdou Moctor at venues across the US, the European Union and China. Building upon a growing profile, Imarhan’s forthcoming and highly-anticipated sophomore album Temet is slated for a February 23, 2018 release through City Slang Records — and the Patrick Votan and Eyadou Ag Leche-produced album derives its name from the Tamashek word for “connections,” which shouldn’t be surprising as the album reportedly is an urgent wake up call to the listener, meant to remind them that we are all deeply connected and without unity and understanding, that we will never be able to solve our world’s most urgent and pressing connections — i.e., environmental destruction, inequality, racism, growing strife and conflict, etc. As the band’s Ben Abderahmane said in press notes some time ago, “People should love each other. They need to know each other, we need to know each other, everyone should get to know their neighbor. We need to have the same approach as our elders,” he continues. “You will stumble across an old man who knows the world and will hand down his knowledge to his children.”

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site over the past few months, you may recall that the album’s first single “Azzaman” was a meditative, hypnotic yet subtly contemporary take on the region’s desert blues sound that nods at psych rock — while thematically the song focuses on the passing of time and the handing over of a heritage and traditions by each successive generation, and the importance of leaving the right legacy. But along with that, the song makes a point of connecting different cultures of mixing the old and the new in a sensible way. Temet’s second single “Tamudre” consists of a hypnotic and downright propulsive groove, punctuated with layers of percussion (both drumming and handclaps), call and response vocals and some impressive guitar work. Naturally, the song manages to remind me quite a bit of Tinariwen’s “Sustanaqqam” and “Adounia Ti Chidjret” but with a loose, bluesy vibe. 

As for the recently released live footage, the Parisian, independent filmmaker Vincent Moon set out of Algeria earlier this year, equipped only with a camera. ‘I never ever film with an object in mind,” Moon explains in press notes. “It’s more about letting it go and let[ting] the object materialize by itself. Interestingly, in this case, wound up being the members of Imarhan, who at the time, were in the middle of working on the material, which would comprise Temet. Moon followed the band for two weeks, documenting hours of music, conversations and pictures in Tamanrasset and within the neighboring mountain ranges, specially the Assekrem (Tamashak for “World’s End”) within the larger Hoggar Mountains in Southern Algeria. The end result is an hour-long documentary film Children of Tam, which is a portrait of the band and of the Tuareg people, capturing these proud people in their daily lives — and interesting enough, the documentary features live footage of the band performing album single “Tamudre” in their hometown. 

New Audio: Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 Team Up with The Legendary Carlos Santana on a Funky and Powerful New Single

Lagos, Nigeria-born and-raised multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and singer/songwriter Seun Kuti is the youngest son of the legendary and controversial Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. And as the story goes when Seun was nine, he expressed a desire to perform with his father — and within a short time, Seun started performing with his father’s backing band Egypt 80. Much like his older brother, Femi, Seun Kuti has followed the political and social ethos of his late father, continuing to push their father’s pro-Black, pan-African/pan-African Diaspora, anti-colonialist, sociopolitical messages to wider, international audiences. Oddly enough, during Fela’s life, he was in many ways the bane of the Nigerian political establishment, as he bravely called out the hypocrisy, inequality, inequity, corruption and brutality that they and their fellow countrymen faced on a daily basis — while pointing out that corruption and brutality is always the same.

However, with increasing international attention on both Fela and his sons over the past 20 years, the Kutis have managed to walk a careful tightrope of siding with the little guy and courageous speaking truth to power at all costs, including risk of life and limb while also becoming unofficial ambassadors to Nigeria, their proud and beautiful people and their culture. Around the time, I started this site, I caught Femi Kuti and Positive Force at Irving Plaza and there was a proud contingency of Nigerians, who spoke of Femi and his father with proud, reverential terms, at one point referring to Femi as “Professor!” “Speak Professor, Speak!” They would exclaim whenever Femi would say something that resonated with them. In some way, I was reminded of how older Jamaicans speak of Bob Marley.

Fela died in 1997 when Femi was 35 and Seun was just 14. Almost immediately upon his father’s death, Seun took over the frontperson duties of his father’s legendary backing band, a band that features members of his father’s backing bands Afrika ’70 and Egypt 80 — many of whom were with Fela, when he was speaking out about the Nigerian government at a time, when doing so could mean risking jail, brutal beatings an/or death. And interestingly enough, Seun’s 2008 debut effort Many Things was produced by Martin Meissonnier, who produced two of Fela’s albums.

Now, as you may know live, Seun Kuti has developed a reputation for sets being a fair mix of his own original material, along with covers of his father’s material, and because his father rarely (if ever) performed songs he recorded in the studio live, Seun covering his father’s material is often seen as an opportunity for fans to hear songs like “Water Get No Enemy,” “Shuffering and Shmiling,” “Colonial Mentality” and “Army Arrangement” live — and with a dynamism that rivals that of his late father.

Seun Kuti’s fourth album with Egypt 80, Black Times is slated for a March 2, 2018 release through British label Strut Records, and the new album reportedly finds Seun and company honoring the revolutionaries who have come and gone before while being a much needed rallying cry for the torchbearers to come. And to further emphasize that theme, the album finds Seun and the legendary Egypt 80 collaborating with a list of acclaimed musicians and artists, including Carlos Santana and Robert Glasper, among others. As Seun Kuti explains in press notes, “Black Times is a true reflection of my political and social beliefs. It is an album for anybody who believes in change and understands the duty we have to rise up and come together. The elites always try to divide the working class and the poor people of the world. The same oppression felt by workers in Flint, Michigan is felt by workers in Lagos and Johannesburg.”

The funky yet blistering album title track and first single “Black Times” features the imitable guitar work of Carlos Santana in a song that’s meant to shine a black light on society, exposing its rot, immorality and hypocrisy while pointing out the need for Black folk all over the world to band together and demand justice and inequality for all people. But beyond that it suggests that everyone needs to take a serious look at themselves and their world in order to truly begin to change it — and while it may be hard work, it’s necessary work to make the world better.

Akuba Records is a new label, whose mission is to bring listeners the very best deep, cosmic, soulful and funky disco music out of their Africa, and their debut release is a split release between He’s The Man and Atik-A. The A side single He’s The Man’s “Squeeze  Me Tight” is an old school club banger, reminiscent of Parliament Funkadelic, Heatwave and oddly enough 45:33-era LCD Soundsystem, as the track features propulsive drumming, a sinuous bass line, an enormous brass section, soulful Lou Rawls-like vocals, complete with a sultry backing section, arpeggiated keys and trippy analog effects — with the end result being something both tribal and cosmic.